Lighting 102: 5.2 - Assignment: Double-Duty Light

Today's Lighting 102 assignment is simple, in theory. Your job is to create a photo, using just one flash, that makes use of reflective surfaces to create light coming from multiple directions.

Sounds easy enough. But there is a little twist. More after the jump.


Technique-wise, this assignment is just as simple as it sounds. You'll be using one flash, which you can combine with ambient light if you like. But you'll be stretching it to make it do double duty. Or triple duty. Or more.

This assignment is a little different from what we have been doing up until now, in that this is more than just a technique-based photo. This is also a conceptual shoot.

Realizing that 85% of the people who read this site are amateurs, I wanted to introduce an element of your having to produce a shot designed to illustrate a concept. This should give you an added layer of complexity. But I am also going to include a choice of three concepts just to make things a little easier.

Before we get to that, a roadmap to help you conceive your shot.

Concept, Subject, Light, Gesture

Normally, a photographer would get an assignment to illustrate a single concept. And you'd think you would want a nice, big, general concept, right?

Maybe not. In my experience, those are more difficult to do than the niche stuff. It just a matter of having to many choices.

Once your concept is narrowed down, you need to choose a subject that you will use to illustrate it. One earlier example on this site is this On Assignment post, from a shot to illustrate winter book clubs. We chose as our subject origami chairs, made from the pages of classic books.

Physical subject chosen, we next had to design the light. In the above case, I was trying to mimic a dark night and fire from a fireplace. (You can read the whole assignment post on the other page, so I won't dupe that here.)

But the point is that the physical subject had to exist before we started to figure out how to light it. If you think of this as a linear creative process, it starts to work itself out a little. How you interpret the concept will point you to your representational physical subject matter.

The choice of subject will help you craft a lighting scheme -- within the bounds of this assignment, in this instance -- and then you are on your way to making a photo.

If your subject is a person, you'll also want to pay careful attention to the gesture you elicit, as this last step with either make or break the photo. Not that a person is required. But if you use one, don't drive the ball 99 yards and screw it up because the person's gesture is totally wrong for your concept.

First Things First

How will it be used?

Even if you do not have a publication venue in mind, it helps to make one up in your mind to act as a guidepost. This will help you to visualize the photo you want to make and give you some boundaries that will help you make your choices along the way.

Choosing a venue will help you get the creative ball rolling.

Mind you, for the pros, the venue is typically already chosen, as is the concept. And frequently, the subject is pre-selected, too. Each of these pre-chosen variables can be a blessing or a curse. But this time, for better or worse, you are driving.

Your Choices

Here are the three conceptual choices for your assignment. Choose one:

1. Financial Planning.
2. Going Green.
3. Physical Fitness.

Three simple concepts, with many possible choices.

I'm Playing, Too

As mentioned in the reflect/refract post, I am gonna be doing this one, too. I will write it up as an On Assignment and throw my thought process into the ring along with everyone else. And, FWIW, I'll share some of my choices here.

My concept choice will be #1, Financial Planning. It is an avocational interest of mine, so I know enough to at least get started thinking about it.

My potential end venue will be the blog, "Get Rich Slowly," which is run my friend, J.D. Roth. He has no idea I will be shooting a conceptual photo for him to use, and will likely only find out when he sees his inbound traffic from my site today. (Hi, J.D. -- Surprise!)

If he wants to use it, fine. If not, fine. But the point is that having an end use in mind will help to guide me through the decision-making process.

That's where I am going with it. More later.

For this assignment, your tags will be:

Lighting102 (note, no spaces)

Please tag only one photo with the above three tags. And remember: One flash, stretched with reflectors. That's the technique we are using.

You can see all of the photos from this assignment here. Discussion for the assignment is here.

The assignment is due at the end of the day on March 3rd.

NEXT: Discussion - Double-Duty Light


New to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Got a question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist
Have a passport? Join me in Hanoi: X-Peditions Location Workshops